It’s been a very busy couple of years, and I’m about to head off to the Vastern Timber Christmas party as we close for the festive break. But before I do I’ll share a few highlights from 2019. What a year!
We have, as we do every year, put our heart and soul into sourcing, processing and selling British grown wood. We have bought a bit from France but over 90% of what we cut this year has come from the UK and most of that has come from within 100 miles of our mills here in Wiltshire.
Our project to take British wood to the next level, Brimstone, has gone from strength to strength. Beautiful projects, large and small are stacking up and the feedback we have received from clients and trades people has been excellent.
The Wood Centre for Innovation, our biggest Brimstone project
The year began with construction of the Wood Centre for Innovation in Oxford, the biggest project yet using Brimstone poplar, our amazing, award-winning, locally-grown, thermally-modified, timber cladding.
We supplied 1400 square metres of Brimstone poplar, and it was fantastic to showcase the product on such an exciting development.
The Oxford Trust’s new innovation centre at Stansfeld Park provides space for science and technology start-ups, and teaching facilities for primary-aged science education. The development aims to boost enterprise, education and engagement with technology, “inspiring the next generation.”
Award winning sculpture in English Oak
We have cut more English oak than ever this year and it was a pleasure when the Kissing Bench by Alison Crowther won the ‘bespoke furniture’ category at the Wood Awards. It’s a beautiful piece, commissioned by Glyndebourne Opera House to encourage visitors to linger in the sculpture garden.
Vastern Timber supplied English oak, which Alison hand-carved using traditional techniques, to create this spectacular piece of sculptural seating.
Alison said “carving The Kissing Benches from enormous beams of English oak was pure joy for me.” We’ve worked with Alison on many projects over the years, and we keep a special eye out for the biggest and best pieces with potential to be transformed into beautiful art.
Environmental Product Declaration for Brimstone
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been working with our team and the experts at thinkstep, to publish an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for our Brimstone range. The carbon impact of buildings is becoming a hot topic and I am proud that we are one of the first British timber companies to publish an EPD and present the impact of our products clearly and accurately. It’s been a steep learning curve and a fascinating process, and we finally published the document in November 2019.
The EPD is now officially registered and published in the International EPD® System: S-P-01718 Brimstone cladding and decking boards
The real benefit of lifecycle analysis
The more I learn, the more questions I have about what is really meant by terms like ‘renewable’ and ‘sustainable.’ To understand these much overused terms we have to consider the whole system. And this is what a life-cycle analysis aims to do.
Obviously it makes us happy that as a wood product, the carbon emitted is negative but the real value comes from using the EPD data to identify where improvements can be made. To reduce emissions further, we plan to eradicate transport to the modification plant by building an on site thermal modification facility next year.
We plan to power the plant by electricity rather than gas, using solar power and electricity from renewable sources.
Wood for the Trees: a series of short films about the future of our forests
This year ended with me freezing in a woodland, discussing the climate crisis and the benefits of timber as a sustainable building material, with an eco-activist filmmaking team. An odd thing for an owner of timber company to be doing maybe, but I sense that next year will be critical for the future of our woodlands and the industries that work with them.
Our plan is to produce one film a month through 2020, each one dealing with a different topic linked to woodlands, landuse and wood in the built environment. We are calling this series ‘Wood for the trees’. You will be able to see these films on this website or directly on our Youtube channel.
I’m worried about the future of our woodlands, but I’m hopeful that a massive tree planting program could be coming soon, and that if it’s carefully managed we could have a very bright future for British forests.
That’s it for 2019. Let’s all have a well earned rest.
Dec 20th, 2019.